Habitat Programs

Our future flies on the wings of pollinators…

Each of MRP’s programs are focused on one goal:  Rebuilding native habitat to levels that will sustain our pollinators populations.   Each habitat restoration program is designed to create new Pollinator Zones™ (PZs), in large and small tracts, on both private and public land.  Our programs are currently targeted at Linn County habitat restoration with plans underway for expansion to other communities.


This public-private endeavor is a partnership with the City of Cedar Rapids, City of Marion, and Linn County. It will restore 1,000 acres of public land in parks, trails and golf courses to rich pollinator habitat by 2020. MRP provides funding for seed and other supplies.

Why is the 1,000 Acre Plan important?

Over the last 15 years, well over half of the pollinator habitat in the United States has been eliminated.  Habitat loss is considered a major contributor to the population decrease of many pollinators, including bees and the North American migrating monarch butterfly. Without the actions of pollinators, agricultural economies, our food supply, and surrounding landscapes would collapse.

Where can I see the plan in action?

Over five years (2017 to 2021), the goal is to convert 1,000 public acres from unproductive land to pollinator habitat. Public parks and golf courses are the primary recipients of the prairie plantings; other locations include storm water detention basins, utility department lands, airport lands, and road rights of way. 

You can see the new pollinator plantings in the following parks and golf courses: Bever Park, Beverly Park, Cherry Hill Park, Ellis Golf Course, Gardner Golf Course, Jones Golf Course, Lowe Park, Matsell Pine and Prairie Trail, Morgan Creek Park, Noelridge Park, Pinicon Ridge Park, Seminole Valley Park, Squaw Creek Park, Sun Valley Park, Tuma Skyhawks, Twin Pines Golf Course, Waldo’s Rock Park, and Wickiup Hill.

Additional Information

The 1,000 Acre project has put Cedar Rapids in the national spotlight.  The Iowa Economic Development Authority pitched the 1,000 Acre Pollinator Initiative to national media as an example of Iowa’s problem-solving attitude, culture of innovation, and collective community spirit that fosters public-private partnerships. Numerous national news outlets picked up the story  including Popular Science– View the article, “A small city in Iowa is devoting 1,000 acres of land to America’s vanishing bees” that reached an audience of close to 72 million here: Popular Science


This partnership with Linn County Secondary Roads will convert 1,000 miles of roadside Rights of Way to pollinator habitat by 2022 by planting 75,000 mini-prairies in secondary roadside ditches.  County roadsides make up 46 percent of public lands in Iowa, and there are 2,200 ditch miles in Linn County alone.  Ditches are mowed, sprayed, and air-seeded by MRP employees, then maintained by county employees.  Iowa State University helped develop the native seed mix used in the pilot and will be testing and monitoring results during the four-year period.

Why is the 1,000 Mile Pilot important?

This initiative is a local version of a national effort to improve pollinator habitats on transportation rights-of-way. “Secondary roadsides are the largest amount of underutilized land in Linn County,” says Rob Roman, Roadside Vegetation Manager for the Linn County Secondary Road Department.

“I’ve always liked using roadsides for wildlife habitat because it takes advantage of existing acres. The 1,000 Mile Pilot takes this to a new level by helping monarchs and pollinators directly—in a way that can be replicated,” says Joe McGovern, president of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. “This plan is a great example of partnering to make a difference, and I hope this model can be used all over Iowa.”

Where can I see the pilot in action?

The pilot will begin in the southeastern quadrant of Linn County; an additional quadrant will be completed in each of the following three years. Linn County will provide long-term maintenance of the roadsides.

Like all prairie plantings, the first year of growth will result in few blooms. Instead the plants will spend their energy putting down good roots, and the land will be periodically mowed to reduce weed competition.

Residents will begin to see blooms in the second year, and by the third year, the native plants will become mature and dominate the site. At that time, the areas will require minimal mowing and maintenance, reducing long-term maintenance costs for the county.

Iowa State University students will study the efficacy of this process by monitoring the new green infrastructure for both stem counts and monarch egg counts. The pilot is expected to provide data to create recommendations for implementation of pollinator plots in other jurisdictions’ roadside management practices.

Additional Information

“Miles of Linn County ditches getting new life” by Orlan Love, The Gazette, June 2, 2018.   Link to article: The Gazette

Marion Native Tree Right-of-Way (ROW) Pilot

Monarch Research has partnered with the City of Marion to offer residents and landowners native Iowa trees for the purpose of Right-of-Way replenishment, and to establish new growth in areas that were previously vacant. The city-wide initiative is called the Marion Native Tree Right-of-Way Enrichment Pilot and began in the Fall of 2022.

Our 5-year objectives:

To provide a continuous canopy of Native trees in all ROW bordering a residential or commercial property.

To allow citizens to select tree species, plant, and water trees bordering their property on the ROW.

To allow citizens to act as community Tree Ambassadors to help others who cannot plant trees in their ROW.

To be limited to the 250 property owners who sign up on the website.  After a successful pilot, the initiative continues in 2023.

To be inspected by Marion Urban Forestry personnel to verify species, location, and the number of trees to adequately cover the available ROW for each of the 250 properties.

The benefits of canopy restoration – including natural cooling, oxygen production, carbon dioxide sequestration, water collection, and food/lodging for native animals/insects/birds – are not defined nor diminished by property lines. Those who participate in this unique pilot program, who choose to be Tree Ambassadors, have the ability to help their neighbors, friends, family, and community to rebuild and restore what was lost – trees, birds, butterflies…nature.

The City of Marion communicates future dates and available tree species. Visit the cityofmarion.org or contact us to learn more.

Linn Landowner Forum

Our annual Linn Landowner Forum is a special event – truly a call to action for property owners interested in conservation.  In addition to keynote speeches from nationally renowned habitat restoration leaders, our Forum connects landowners with experts and vendors who can provide guidance on restoring natural areas to create “green infrastructure”.

Why is the Linn Landowner Forum important?

Across the country, native habitat is disappearing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nearly 24 million acres of native habitat were converted to crop production between 2008 and 2011. Concurrent with this decrease in native habitat are significant declines in insect populations. In the last 10 years, petitions were submitted to protect both bees and monarch butterflies under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Linn County organizations recognized these sweeping changes in our environment, and in 2016 several organized a free forum where Linn County landowners could learn about adding more native habitat to their land.

Partnering for success

By 2018, the group that organized the annual forum expended to eight organizations: Indian Creek Nature Center, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Linn County Conservation, Linn Soil and Water Conservation District, Monarch Research Project, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Pheasants Forever, and Trees Forever

The goal of the forum is to educate and motivate landowners by providing presentations and interactive how-to sessions, as well as gathering vendors that can help with habitat projects.

Typically, the forum opens with a large group session with speakers, including a keynote address. After a break, attendees are then invited to attend break-out sessions on four or more topics. Around two dozen vendors typically are on site to consult with landowners participate.

If you’d like to be added to the Linn Landowner Forum email list, please click here and send us a note!  Join the Linn Landowner Forum Mailing List